In the spirit of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF Bauchi Field Office has organized a media dialogue in Azare, the headquarters of Katagum local government area of Bauchi State.
At the dialogue, which brought together Journalists from Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba, Plateau, and Gombe States, the Chief of Office, UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field Office, Dr. Tusher Rane, reechoed the need for friendly policies that will enable working mothers to breastfeed successfully.
He identified the introduction of paid maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks, and the construction of rooms where mothers can breastfeed, or express milk as some of the Family-friendly workplace policies that will help working mothers breastfeed conveniently.
“We must promote policies that encourage breastfeeding, such as paid maternity leave for six months, as well as paid paternity leave, flexible return-to-work options, regular lactation breaks during working hours, and adequate facilities that enable mothers to continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months. When working parents and caregivers have sufficient paid leave, they can meet the essential nutritional needs of their young children”, Dr. Tusher Rane said.
He noted that “Women make up 20 million out of the 46 million workforce in Nigeria; 95 percent are within the informal sector, while the formal sector only employs 5 percent. Shockingly, only 9 per cent of organizations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector. Women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding”.
The Bauchi UNICEF Field Office Chief said that workplace challenges to breastfeeding are one of the primary factors responsible for early cessation of breastfeeding, adding that for working mothers, juggling between tasks and breastfeeding may be nearly often impossible.
According to him, government and employers must provide the needed assistance for mothers and caregivers including those in the formal or on temporary contracts to conveniently breastfeed or support children.
He reminded people that babies who are not breastfed are 14 times more likely to die before they reach their first birthday than babies who are exclusively breastfed, adding that breast milk is the first vaccine for every child.
Dr. Rane, who spoke virtually, said breast milk is the mainstay for safeguarding infants against life-threatening infections, it supports optimal brain development in children, especially in the first 1,000 days and it ultimately lowers healthcare costs.
Every year, World Breastfeeding Week, is celebrated in the first week of August. This year, the event brings attention to workplace breastfeeding.